About The Film
The Naked Option: A last resort
tells the remarkable stories of grassroots women in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta and the use of the threat of stripping naked in public, a sacred weapon, in their deadly struggle against environmental and cultural ruin by the world’s most powerful corporate giants. Fed up with the loss of their livelihoods, their inability to feed their families and the severe violence that rips through their communities in this militarized zone, Niger Delta women are organizing across ethnic boundaries and taking over where men have failed! The Naked Option follows Emem J. Okon, a courageous and tireless women’s leader and human rights advocate, as she travels to rural communities where women are prepared to strip naked in public, a weapon of last resort, and one that has given them unprecedented power over both government and oil through landmark moments in Nigerian history. The purpose of the film is to inspire women’s leadership globally and create market pressures by educating consumers to question corporate responsibility and to promote community action on a local and international level where industry poses similar hazards to those in the Niger Delta.
On July 8, 2002, 600 rural peasant women, ages 20 – 90, took over the largest oil producing facility in Nigeria. Unarmed, they held 700 male ChevronTexaco workers hostage. For ten days the women blocked the flow of a half million barrels of oil a day, from the fifth largest oil supplier to the United States by threatening to strip naked in public. “Our weapon is our nakedness.”
Helen Odeworitse, 2002, Ugborodo, Nigeria
Through the dramatic personal stories of rural women, Mama Bata, Aret Obobo and Lucky Ogodo, residents of Ugborodo and Amukpe, oil producing communities in the bush where Chevron and Shell operate respectively, and the story of Emem’s work throughout the Niger Delta, the film explores the personal lives of these women and reveals the impact of collusion of oil and state, the marriage of globalization and marginalization, the abuse of women’s rights, and the rhetoric of corporate responsibility, on their daily lives. The film shows frustration and suffering fuse into the power of an organized group of women. “We are the women who decided to take over the Chevron yard,” states 70-year-old Mama Bata, of Ugborodo. “We’ll go naked. We’ll do our naked. Shell wants us to suffer and we’re not taking it. Fear will come”, threatens Lucky Ogodo of Amukpe. We witness the devastation and the violence that drives them to risk their lives to take over major oil producing flow stations. Actual footage of the event combines with women’s first-hand accounts of how they accomplished this action! We discover the training of Emem Okon plays a role in the women’s ability to negotiate with Chevron.
In the face of a government that sends paramilitary soldiers to protect multinational oil companies from protesters, Emem works to transform women’s ‘naked power’ into 21st Century political action and mobilization. Holding democracy and peace building trainings, conflict-resolution workshops, teaching women negotiating skills and encouraging them to step up to decision making positions in government, Okon sets forth a new, safer vision for women and new models of organizing. “Education doesn’t reduce the risks but it provides women with the skills and knowledge to confront that risk. It makes them bolder,” says Emem, Executive Director of Kebetkache Women’s Development and Resource Centre. Emem continuously challenges the nexus of power between ‘Big Oil’ and a brutal Nigerian government through non-violence. The women, at the risk of being raped, beaten or killed, are prepared and armed….but not with anything you can see. “In my organization, we don’t promote that option but if it gets to the point where stripping naked is the only way they can get government attention we will not stop them.”
Guerilla in style, the film is shot predominantly on-the-fly, using a handheld camera, natural light, and a limited crew of 1-2. Filming in the militarized zone of Nigeria poses significant risks as it is not a video friendly environment, nor is it easy to conceal your identity when you are obviously a foreigner. The lack of electricity, inadequate lighting, constant noise and stifling filthy heat are visual illustrations of the many physical constraints and are woven into the film to show the huge hurdles the women are up against. Deeply rooted in the point of view of Niger Delta women, the film delivers a fresh and dramatic perspective on the situation in the Niger Delta as it affects them. Footage shot by Sam Olukoya, a Nigerian journalist, provides an intimate, candid, visual observation of the realities of daily life in these oil-soaked communities. The film is intercut with dramatic verité and archival footage; interviews with Nigerian activists, historians and women’s leaders; facts and figures to support material; unique, artful recreation drawings depicting the historic Women’s War of 1929 enhanced with After Effects to create dramatic stories; graphics and animation that transport us into the Delta; and powerful, affecting still images and news headlines with graphic applications combined to bring the stories to life.